AP Interview: Sheikh Salman urges 1 candidate in FIFA poll
Feb. 09, 2016
PARIS (AP) — FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman is calling on voters to agree on a single candidate ahead of the election.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Sheikh Salman dismissed suggestions that winning a contested election would give him a stronger mandate to lead world soccer's governing body.
"If we go to election there will be losers and maybe sometimes you need to avoid that result," he said.
The Bahraini royal and UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino are seen as front-runners among five candidates in the Feb. 26 vote.
Sheikh Salman said it was best for FIFA if "we have a clear indication on who will be elected."
"We have to be realistic. We know the chances of each candidate," said the Asian Football Confederation president, who has the majority backing of his own continent and from African soccer leaders. The two blocs count for 100 of the 209 FIFA voting federations.
"Every day we calculate. I am sure that, of course, it is positive," Sheikh Salman said. "I hope that Europe looks at it from an organizational point of view, and not an individual, on what is best.
"And if there is an agreement then I think it is a win-win. Everybody is involved and everybody has a share of the power and gets involved in the decision-making. But everybody has the right to run and go ahead. It is not up to me to decide on that."
A pre-election deal to unite behind one man was suggested last week by FIFA executive committee member Vitaly Mutko, the Russian sports minister.
"Mr. Mutko's comments reflect the feeling of a lot of people around," Sheikh Salman said. "It can be done through (the national federations). They can persuade."
The two election front-runners were both in Paris on Tuesday with their campaign teams.
Sheikh Salman met with the AP on Tuesday in a five-star hotel about one kilometer (one mile) from another hotel where Infantino attended a meeting of leading European clubs.
The sheikh declined to confirm if there had been direct talks between the two camps.
Infantino declined to speak about FIFA issues before presenting his election pitch at the European Club Association meeting.
One deal option for Asia and Europe has been aired often since the campaign took shape last October: That Sheikh Salman becomes FIFA president with Infantino as his secretary general.
"Europe has to look after its interests as well," Sheikh Salman acknowledged. "We are open for dialogue. The decision is not just my decision now. I have a partner now and Africa is my partner and I will consult with the Africans on all future steps."